Written by Clint Bizzell
Al Pacino, arguably one of the greatest actors of all-time, has inspired millions of people, businesses and elite sporting teams with his inspirational speech from the film ‘Any Given Sunday’ which left its mark long after the credits rolled in late 1999.
Pacino’s speech in the locker room at half time impacted sporting teams such as The All Blacks (NZ’s national rugby union team), Arsenal Football Club (UK premier league) and Team Sky Cycling (Britain’s professional racing team), as well as countless organisations globally.
Pacino’s rev up even made its way into our pre-season at the Melbourne Football Club, as many of the backline players felt that it represented a mantra that would extract the very best out of us as well as signify the way we wanted to prepare and play as a team.
Here is Pacino’s performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_iKg7nutNY
So why has this speech been referenced as a strategic blue print of sustained success in teams and organisations around the world?
It’s not a new concept and it’s known as the aggregation of marginal gains. It’s when as a team you make lots of small ‘easy to do’ improvements which when added up can make the end result the difference between winning and losing. And it can apply to anything physical, technical, operational, psychological, operational, cultural and practical.
John Olsen the author of the ‘The Slight Edge’ dedicates his book to this concept of turning simple disciplines into massive success.
“In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. In other words, it won’t impact you very much today. But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (‘I’ll take a burger and fries’) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over time.”
So, if this concept is not new and the philosophy is actioning small ‘easy to do’ actions, why is it hard to get right?
Olsen would say that even though they are ‘easy to do’ actions, they are also easy ‘not to do’. Therefore most people give up before creating those good habits that are at first clunky and difficult to complete. After a while these habits become easier, until we master them and then these smaller actions have a positive compounding effect.
The NZ All Blacks implement this into everything they do with an emphasis on each player’s own personal development plan which is role modelled and driven by their leadership group.
Former All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, is quoted from the book “Legacy” (written by James Kerr about the All Blacks sustained success) as saying:
“Success is modest improvement consistently done”.
GM and Performance director of Team Sky, Dave Brailsford, also implemented this philosophy and they are now the envy of every team on the Tour De France.
By redeveloping their racing bike with the manufacturer Pinarello, riders using the same mattress and pillows before each race to stay comfortable and relaxed, as well as using colour coded water bottles so the riders know which bottles have water and which have energy drinks. Brailsford says:
“If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together…they’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.”
Whether you’re in sport or business, the challenge for leaders using this philosophy is to have the discipline to stay the course, because when you add up all those inches that’s going to make the difference between winning and losing.
Clint Bizzell has over 15 years experience in leadership development in his career as a professional athlete and more recently as an Executive Director of Eve Media. At Composure Group Clint works with leaders and teams to determine where they want to go and leverage whatever it takes to get them there. He challenges people to be open and honest with themselves so they can make clear choices about their actions and impact on others.